"Shipping News" --does it improve?

Warning: Spoilers
I’m at the point where he has just bought a boat. I am underwhelmed so far, and wonder if it is worth continuing.

The book won all those awards, so I’m thinking there must be more to it, but maybe it is just that literary people love books about writers.

I almost bailed when the wife sold the kids to the pedophile–was that extra touch necessary–couldn’t she have just sold them to a couple wanting kids? On the other hand, I am thinking the wife maybe was a metaphor for the U.S.–moral decay, undermines your belief in yourself.

There is nobody to really like yet --my opinion, of course. And I want someone to root for, or at least like. The aunt is the best so far, but how can you grow fond of someone who is always called the aunt? Not even Aunt, much less a real name.

The style reads to me like a pseudo Anne Tyler. Also, those lists go on too long.

I don’t hate it, just not captivated yet. Is it just that it is not for me, or does it get better rapidly?

For me it picked up after about 150 pages.

Though I know other people for whom it never picked up at all.

It’s definitely not a regular kind of narrative.

Pull over!
Nope! It’s a cardigan!


That book gets interesting reactions.

I’m a HORRIBLE literary snob, and HATE almost anything written since, say, 1940. But I love Annie Proulx. No accounting for taste I guess.

Anyway, I enjoyed that book a lot, although a lot of my other snobby friends have made it clear to me that it’s in my own best interest not to admit that publicly.

The book is somewhat absurdist, merrily. The fact that the wife sold the kids to the pedophile was jarring to me, too, but it’s an early clue that things don’t have to make sense in the novel. Recalled in context, I actually find it pretty funny. I quite enjoyed the book once I got into it, although I’ll note that I listened to an audio version, which requires less effort to work past the slow parts than an actual book does.


I’m NOT a literary snob. Want proof?

Hey, why not save time and just rent the movie. I thought IT was great.

Short answer: No.

Long answer: Throw the book into the fire now, and salvage that irreplacable portion of your life you would have wasted on finishing it.

Another no vote. I finished it but that was back in the days when I believed it was shameful not to finish any book.

Shipping News was one of the books mentioned in that Atlantic Monthly article, “A Reader’s Manifesto”, as being pretentious and more difficult than it needed to be, deliberately and affectedly obscure.

So I felt better about not liking the book, until I read a response (from Meghan O’Rourke at Slate) to the Atlantic article that made me feel, again, like a lazy reader.

Since then, I’ve decided not to sweat it. There are too many unread books out there, some trash, some treasure, it’s all too subjective. I will give up without guilt. Life’s too short.

Accordion Crimes was much better, IMHO. Read that one instead.

LOL, it’s a story. Stop trying to analyze it and read it like a story.

I loved it, and re-read it frequently. I can tell you right now that if you didn’t like the mother selling the kids to a kiddy porn ring, you’re not going to be happy with what the aunt does with her brother’s ashes, and are going to be most displeased with what is found washed up ashore in a suitcase. :wink:

You’re thinking of Michard’s Deep End of the Ocean which might just be the worst book ever written.

The woman’s baby is kidnapped at a class reunion. The first 2/3rds of the book is her searching for like 12 years for the kid and then guess what? The kid has been living the next block over the whole time. DURRR! The rest of the book is about trying to force the kid to live with the family even though he hates them. Like we care after that cheap trick. One of those books you physically throw across the room when you finish it.

Thanks very much for the responses.

Based on the mixed reactions, I think I will continue reading until Saturday, Library Day. Then, if I still am not enthralled, I’ll move on.

(Not getting through much of it a day, can you tell.)

Funny, I HATED Accordion Crimes, but liked Shipping News and her other book, Postcards. Shipping News and Postards were “difficult” books, not in the sense of Finnegan’s Wake or Pynchon, but in the sense that everything in them seemed in some sense ambigious.

I absolutely adored The Shipping News (once I got past the first ~150 pages). Once he moves to Newfoundland the story takes off and becomes magical. I also loved how the knot description at the start of every chapter had something to do with what happened in the story (love knot, etc.). I have tried to adopt the habit of thinking in headlines as does the main character (“Reader Adores Book - Others Not So Sure”).

Ewww. Hated It. Was beyond perplexed when it won the Pulitzer, not that winning an award in any is a determiner of quality…

I enjoyed it, but then, I was in Korea at the time and strapped for reading material. I haven’t actually read it again since then, despite the fact that after Korea I spent three years in Newfoundland.

Postcards sorta gave me the creeps, but if you haven’t read Heartsongs yet (her collection of short stories) I think you’ll really like it. Her latest book That Old Ace in the Hole is interesting, but sorta seemed to end just when things were getting interesting.